The health benefits of walking are numerous.
Many doctors cite moderate physical activity, including walking, as a “magic pill” for better health. It burns calories, improves cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, enhances mood, boosts energy, and improves cognition.
But most Americans don’t get enough regular exercise, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the recently revised Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, only about half of all American adults meet the key guidelines for aerobic physical activity. And 80 percent of adults do not meet the key guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
However, regular physical activity could help combat the rise of chronic disease. About half of all American adults—117 million people—have one or more preventable chronic diseases. And seven of the 10 most common chronic diseases respond favorably to regular physical activity.
So the guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes (30 minutes, 5 days a week, for example) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week for adults. Or, 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Also, at least two days of strength-training or weight-bearing exercise per week.
And how can we fit that in? For many, walking is an easier, more convenient, and less expensive way to meet those guidelines.
What are the Benefits of Walking?
Walking was the first exercise I went back to a decade ago when I had to start taking better care of myself. And it’s still a way of moving that I regularly enjoy.
“Walking is our best strategy for improving health,” says George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. “The epidemic of chronic diseases is becoming the number-one cost issue in almost every country of the world.
“We need a national agenda that creates a culture of health and where people can walk. Walking can be done anywhere, all you need is shoes … it can be done easily and has huge benefits.”
A growing body of evidence shows how walking regularly – or rolling, for those in wheelchairs – strengthens mental, emotional and physical health. And while the physical effects take a little while to show up, the mental and emotional benefits kick in almost immediately.
Exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.
And it boosts energy levels.
It also can boost social engagement if you work out with others.
Plus, there are the physical benefits such as improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, stronger bones and muscles, and more.
Perhaps it really is the Magic Pill we’ve been looking for.
Hi! I’m Amy, an integrative health coach, offering grace and space for a healthier you. Would you be interested in walking or hiking but don’t want to go alone? If you’re in central North Carolina, join my “Hike with a Health Coach” meetups this fall. It’s a way I create a space for women to get outside and walk together (though it’s open to all who register here). No agenda, program, advice, or fixing – simply time spent together in the great outdoors. And if you’d like to stay in touch, please subscribe to my weekly Well Check emails and other updates.